Safaricom M-Pesa Secures Historic License, Challenging Ethio Telecom's Monopoly

May 11 , 2023

Safaricom M-Pesa Financial Service Plc, a subsidiary of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia (Safaricom Ethiopia), has been granted a mobile money service license by regulators at the Ethiopian central bank.

This marks a significant milestone, as it is the country's first license issued to a foreign private company.

The historic entry of Safaricom Ethiopia disrupts the century-long monopoly held by state-owned Ethio-telecom in the telecommunications market. The central bank's decision to allow Safaricom M-Pesa aligns with its objectives to promote financial inclusion and innovation within the country, according to a statement issued by the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE).

The NBE statement welcomed the transition to digital financial services, highlighting the benefits of efficiency, security, and transparency in the rapidly evolving financial sector. The central bank also expressed openness to introducing various forms of digital financial services in the future.

Ethio-telecom, a state-owned enterprise, has long dominated the mobile payment market with its Telebirr service, which has been heavily promoted. The expansion of Telebirr was accelerated by federal transport authorities requiring vehicles to be refuelled exclusively through Telebirr and an app launched by the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), another state-owned bank.

M-Pesa's entrance into the Ethiopian market is poised to present a significant challenge to Ethio-telecom's dominance. The mobile payment service, originally launched in Kenya, has gained global recognition for its pioneering role in the industry.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated from its original version on the basis of clarification.

Safaricom is the first foreign private company to be granted a mobile money service license.

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